What does Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody’s indictment mean for the upcoming election?

Williamson County

Editors Note: The above video shows that the Texas Municipal Police Association had not yet endorsed a candidate in the race for Williamson County Sheriff, as reported by the Executive Director on Monday to KXAN. The Director clarified later TMPA had officially endorsed Gleason in the race.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — With the November election quickly approaching, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody, who is up for re-election, now faces criminal charges.

“I don’t know if there’s anything to legally prevent him from being on the ballot because of this?” one young voter, Natalie O’Neal asked.

A grand jury indicted Sheriff Chody this week on a felony charge of tampering with evidence, in relation to the death of Javier Ambler.

As Sheriff Chody himself pointed out in a press conference Monday, an indictment is not a conviction.

“A grand jury is about ‘probable cause,'” he said. “It’s not about being convicted or anything at this point. There have been other elected officials who have been indicted as well and are still serving. Give me an opportunity in a court room as well to show my innocence.” 

The Texas Election Code allows anyone who hasn’t been “finally convicted of a felony” to run for office.

State law also notes once an official is elected, a petition would have to be filed in district court to remove them. The Williamson County District Clerk’s Office confirmed no new petitions calling for Sheriff Chody’s removal have been filed.

Sheriff Chody confirmed he would not be stepping down or taking his name off the ballot in November.

“Let all the truth come out before you make a decision like that, and the truth will prevail,” Chody said.

At the news conference, Sheriff Chody’s attorney claimed there was more evidence that should be reviewed. He also pointed out a prosecutor only needs to prove there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed by the suspect.

He said, “The old adage goes, ‘You can indict a ham sandwich.'”

However, Executive Director of the Texas Municipal Police Association Kevin Lawrence said some people do not feel like Sheriff Chody is holding himself to the standard to which he holds his own deputies.

“During his time as sheriff, [Robert Chody] has fired a whole lot of people for a whole lot less than ‘probable cause’ or ‘reasonable suspicion.’ So, if this was some other employee at the sheriff’s office, we feel like they’d be fired by now,” Lawrence said. “He needs to discipline himself like he would anybody else.”

Lawrence explained they are funding several lawsuits for former Williamson County Sheriff’s Office employees who feel they were wrongly terminated.

“I will tell you there are a lot of employees there that support Sheriff Chody,” he said. “He has pretty much divided the department into the ‘pro-Chody’ versus ‘not-pro-Chody’ factions, and it just makes for a disheartening environment.”

He also expressed concerns about the involvement of the show Live PD.

“When you start staging things for the camera, when you start creating drama simply for the sake of ratings or whatever, then it becomes a major issue,” Lawrence said.

Chody’s opponent in the race for Williamson County sheriff said he spent 24 years at the department, and he has heard complaints from current employees about the culture under Chody’s leadership.

Mike Gleason released a public statement Monday saying voters’ trust has been “shattered” with this indictment.

In an interview with KXAN’s Avery Travis, Gleason said, “People put you in office for the opposite reason of what happened today. There were a lot of steps that were missed that shouldn’t have been missed. In my own humble opinion, the pursuit [of Javier Ambler] shouldn’t have ever happened. The failure to dim high beams is hardly a reason to chase someone as far as they did, into another jurisdiction.”

He said he had spoken to the family of Javier Ambler.

“The transparency was never there to begin with. To hold on to something for 15 months?” Gleason said. “The family knew nothing for 15 months. The family was never contacted, and that’s not what you do as a law enforcement agency.”

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